Bryan urges county to extend drinking hours

At the close of Tuesday’s County Commission meeting, current Commissioner Ken Bryan threw in a piece of last minute business that he says “is urgent” and must be approved before the Christmas holidays — allowing extended drinking hours.

Bryan says that he got on the phone and called up a number of bars and restaurants at the beach and around town to see how they would benefit if the closing time for liquor sales was extended an extra hour.

St. Johns County Ordinance 90-48, establishes that beer, malt beverages, and wines may be sold, served, or consumed in any place holding a valid license between the hours of 7:00 am and 1:00 am of the following day on each day, including Sundays. Liquor may be sold served, or consumed between the hours of 7:00 a.m. of one day and 1:00 a.m. of the following day except on Sunday, which shall be from 1:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. of the following Monday.

Bryan says we should allow them to sell alcohol until 2:00 in the morning.

Bryan stated that some of the bars and restaurants he called were not interested in changing their hours of operation — others allegedly told him that they would start selling more liquor as soon as it was approved.

The board of county commissioners requires only one hearing to pass an ordinance that is not related to land use. Bryan instructed Deputy County Attorney Michael Hunt to prepare an ordinance that could be read and voted on at the next meeting.

In a reply to Bryan, a copy of which was obtained by Historic City News, Hunt instructed Bryan to get any revisions back to him before Monday, November 23rd, so that Hunt could publish a notice not later than December 5, 2009.

During an interview Friday with St. Johns County Sheriff David B. Shoar, Historic City News learned that Shoar’s staff was made aware of the proposal sometime after the November 17th County Commission meeting.

“I’ve looked at it, and this is purely a legislative decision”, said Shoar.

When asked if this decision would have any impact on his patrol division, the sheriff said, “We aren’t expecting resources to be significantly impacted by this proposal”. Shoar reminded us that he is charged with enforcing whatever laws are enacted; whether he likes them, or not.

At least one commissioner, who did not seem particularly averse to extending sales until 2:00 a.m., former Chair Cyndi Stevenson, was somewhat uncomfortable with the process that Bryan was undertaking.

Stevenson said, “I requested this be changed to a “two hearing” process – but the board wishes to continue with the expediency of a single hearing.”

In correspondence received by Historic City News, Stevenson expressed her concerns, saying that she wanted everyone interested to have the “opportunity to comment on the proposed change.”

So, why the rush to allow “late night” sales of liquor and beer during the Christmas Holidays? We may find out, soon. The commission could decide the issue as soon as December 15, 2009.